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Tessa Sanderson


First British black woman to win an Olympic gold medal

By the end of the 1990 season, Tessa Sanderson had established herself as a living legend in the world of international javelin throwing. Over a 17-year career in senior international competition, Sanderson had won one Olympic and three Commonwealth gold medals. Tessa had also been the dominant force amongst British javelin throwers for a decade, before the emergence of Fatima Whitbread, who eventually usurped Sanderson's dominant role and surpassed her Commonwealth record. However, by her sheer longevity at the top level, Sanderson outlasted Whitbread, who retired in June 1990, resulting in Sanderson, at the age of 34, once again finding herself as Britain's premier javelin thrower. In 1991, despite easily heading the UK annual list with her 65.18m victory at the European Cup on 29 June, Sanderson had to withdraw from the World Championships at Tokyo in August due to a back injury. Instead of starting to slow down, Sanderson's career seemed to accelerate in 1992, the year in which she won her ninth WAAA javelin title. In her fifth Olympic Games in Barcelona, on 1 August, Sanderson briefly took the lead with her first attempt of 63.58m, but was unable to improve upon this effort, which eventually earned her fourth place. She followed this with a victory at the World Cup in Havana, her final competition before retiring to pursue a career in television. Incredibly, Sanderson returned to competition in 1996 after a four-year absence, establishing a number of over-40 world bests throughout the season, while still remaining competitive in open competition. During the year she won her tenth and last WAAA title, and competed at her sixth Olympic Games in Atlanta, equalling the record of Romanian discus thrower Lia Manoliu, but unfortunately she was eliminated in the qualifying round.

Tessa presented the sports news on Sky Television for over two years, and currently runs her own sports management company. She is particularly interested in sports development for young people, and has worked for a number of children's charities. She was awarded the OBE in 1998 for her work with sport and charities.




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